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Health & Safety - Getting Started

Time to look at Health & Safety Management

New sentencing guidelines contain four levels of culpability for health and safety offences. To illustrate, if there was a fatality in a medium sized company, the starting point fine in a “low culpability” case would be £130,000.  For high culpability, it is £950,000 and in a “very high” culpability case, the starting point rockets to £1.6 million.  This article looks at how to keep your business out of those top levels of culpability.

Health & Safety Policy Statement

Having a health and safety policy is a legal requirement.  However the HSE says it must be much more than a document – it should be an integral part of your organisation’s culture, of its values and performance standards.  One senior HSE inspector says what we want to see is a scruffy piece of paper with coffee stains and fingerprints all over it that’s being used on the ground.  A pile of neat paperwork won’t save anyone.  The HSE guide Health & Safety Made Simple (INDG449 rev1) emphasises a policy will only be effective if staff follow it and you review it regularly.

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also require employers to give effect to appropriate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of its preventative and protective measures.  It also makes sense to have one.  Clearly companies with poor health and safety management are more vulnerable to claims and prosecutions.  They will also attract “high culpability” fines several times greater than companies in the “low culpability” bracket, which is only for those making significant efforts…. to address risk.

Guidance is available

HSE Guide INDG449 contains a template health and safety policy.  It is only one page long but completing it is an exacting challenge.  Persons responsible are to be named, including whoever has overall and final responsibility for health and safety. Arrangements for managing health and safety risks are to be set out. 
The template assumes there is already consultation with employees, equipment is being maintained, training is being provided and fire and evacuation procedures are in place.  It also assumes a system of managing health and safety is already up and running.  So writing a genuine health & safety policy requires you to address or revisit these issues.

Guidance for directors and senior managers on how to manage health & safety is to be found in Leading Health & Safety At Work (IND417 rev1) which promotes:

  • Strong and active leadership from the top
  • Engaging the workforce
  • Effective communication systems and management structures
  • The guidance is based around a four point agenda:
  • A living, breathing health and safety policy (“plan”)
  • Effective management system (“do”)
  • Monitoring and reporting (“check”)
  • Reviewing health and safety performance (“act”) at least once a year

The guidance contains a four page checklist to test whether procedures are being followed on the ground.  A company which tests its health and safety management system against this checklist and completes the policy template will be well on the way to embedding health and safety in its processes and developing a true health and safety culture.

Options for Health & Safety Management and the benefits

Leading Health & Safety gives examples of health and safety management resulting in reduced sickness absence, better morale, increased productivity and reduced insurance premiums.  Good health and safety management is about studying processes, so should increase efficiency as well as reducing risk.

The HSE publishes general guidance called Managing Health & Safety, Five Steps to Success (INDG275) to help organisations devising their own management systems.  Organisations may wish to bring in external consultancies to help them - or go for a quality standard such as OHSAS18001/ISO45001. Some organisations have evolved health and safety management systems to work hand in hand with other systems such as quality control and to include other areas of risk, such as environmental, IT, fire and business continuity. (For more information say see PAS99 and the IOSH guidance on Integrated Management Systems available from  However they choose to go about it, businesses who engage with reviewing their health & safety management will reduce their risks and see other benefits, not least that coffee stained piece of paper the HSE are looking for.